- One who is not a partisan.
- A person who has not selected or declared a side or party.
In political science, nonpartisan denotes an election in which the candidates do not declare or do not formally have a political party affiliation. It also denotes organizations that do not have formal alignment with a political party.
Nonpartisan elections are generally held for municipal and county offices, especially school board, and are also common in the election of judges. In some nonpartisan elections, it is common knowledge which candidates are members of and backed by which parties; in others, parties are almost wholly uninvolved and voters make choices with little or no regard to partisan considerations.
Some nonpartisan organizations are truly such; others are nominally nonpartisan but in fact are generally identifiable with one or the other of the two major national parties. For example, the National Rifle Association is technically a nonpartisan organization, but at the national level at least functions almost as an adjunct of the Republican Party. Conversely, although technically a nonpartisan organization, at the national level the NAACP has for many years functioned as almost a subsidiary organization to the Democratic Party. The same can be said of most right-to-life organizations with regard to the Republicans and of most U.S. labor unions with regard to the Democrats. Churches are by law supposed to remain nonpartisan in order to retain the status of contributions to them being tax-deductible (contributions to overtly partisan groups, even tax-exempt ones, are not); this has recently been called into question with regard to both many predominantly African-American churches being involved in Democratic activism and with many predominantly white evangelical churches being openly aligned with activist groups largely associated with Republicans such as the Christian Coalition. On the other hand, the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank, has at various times in its history been headed by both identifiable Republicans as well as identifiable Democrats and hence would be judged by many to be nonpartisan in practice as well as in theory.
In U.S. history, the Nonpartisan League was an influential socialist political movement, especially in the Upper Midwest, particularly during the 1910s and 1920s. It also contributed much to the ideology of the former Progressive Party of Canada. It went into decline and merged with the Democratic Party of North Dakota to form the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party in 1956.
The unicameral Nebraska State Legislature is the only state legislature that is entirely nonpartisan.
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